An Army of Davids led by the Drudge Report, bloggers and free-speech activists roared mightily, causing the Transportation Security Administration to rescind a new policy that would have prevented employees from accessing websites with “controversial opinions” on TSA computers at work.

The ban was part of a general Department of Homeland Security TSA Internet-usage policy that blocked employee access to gambling and chat sites, as well as sites that dealt with extreme violence or criminal activity.

The TSA episode isn’t the first time the DHS has tangled with conservative critics, who objected strongly to an April 2009 directive that warned law-enforcement officials about a possible increase in “rightwing extremist activity.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano later apologized to veterans for the report, which stated the increased risks were posed in part by a few disgruntled veterans who could swell the ranks of racist militia groups.

From the Land Down Under

Meanwhile, in the land of Oz, angry Australian user groups launched an online campaign accusing their government of censorship with its “Clean Feed” filter, while cyber activists succeeded in jamming key government websites in a concerted campaign of protest hacking.

As a result, Australia has placed its disputed Internet filter plan on hold for up to a year to allow for an independent review of what content would be banned, in a move to mute controversy ahead of elections.

User advocates, the pornography industry and others have likened Australia’s proposed system to official firewalls operating in repressive regimes such as China and Iran.

The Perfect Citizen

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Security Agency is planning to launch a new program called “Perfect Citizen.” It is supposed to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running critical infrastructures such as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants.

Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. was awarded a classified contract valued at up to $100 million to undertake the initial phase of the surveillance effort.

The NSA’s surveillance would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn’t persistently monitor the whole system.

To the rescue

Americans for Prosperity invites you to fight against Internet regulation at its new website No Internet Takeover, designed to provide information and tools for you to engage members of Congress on this critical issue.

Phil Kerpen, vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity, responded to the Federal Communication Commission’s inquiry earlier this year into reclassifying broadband from a largely unregulated information service to a regulated common-carriers service:

“Today marks a troubling and dangerous step forward in the Federal Communication Commission’s ongoing effort to take over of the Internet,” Kerpen said. “The FCC’s Notice of Inquiry is an aggressive step in their reckless effort to force decades-old Title II public-utility regulations on Internet providers. Despite the outcry from nearly 300 Democrats and Republicans, President Obama’s FCC is determined to regulate. We therefore urge Congress to step in immediately to stop the Commission’s dangerous efforts to get regulatory control of the Internet.”

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is sponsoring the RightOnline 2010 Conference to be held July 23 and 24 in Las Vegas. The conference is an annual gathering of thousands of citizen activists, leading conservative voices and the nation’s foremost new-media experts from across the country. I’ll be there and will tell you about it in future editions of Surfin’ Safari.

Drive-by spy

For several weeks, we’ve been telling you about Google’s legal woes surrounding the surreptitious capture of data it wasn’t authorized to collect.

Now it seems Google’s Street View project may have collected personal information of members of Congress, including some involved in national-security issues. Big ‘oops’ there!

The claim was made by leading advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which wants Congress to hold hearings into what data Google’s Street View possesses.

Google has admitted that as early as 2006 it mistakenly collected information, transmitted over unsecured wireless networks, as its cars filmed locations for mapping purposes. Snippets could include parts of an email, text, photograph or even the website someone might be viewing. The issue came to light when German authorities asked to audit the data.

“We think the Google Wi-Spy effort is one of the biggest wiretapping scandals in U.S. history,” John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog told BBC News.

Wow! That’s a BIG screen!

If you like to watch video on the go, Motorola’s Droid X is a great option. The Verizon Wireless smartphone, powered by Google’s Android operating system, costs $200 with a two-year contract, after a mail-in rebate. The liquid crystal display at 4.3 inches is one of the largest, and takes up practically the entire face of the device, save for four slivers of buttons.

YouTube for dough. YouTube for show.

Fire up that digital cam. YouTube is giving away $5 million in grants to top independent vloggers on its site. The grants, which will vary between tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, are designed to boost the production values of the popular videos on its site.

YouTube gets about 2 billion views per day (compared with about 1 billion a day in 2009).

George Strompolos, content-partnerships manager for YouTube, announced the program in Century City before an audience of more than 1,000 vloggers attending Vidcon, the first large-scale YouTube conference organized by the site’s community.

And if you’re an “artiste,” your work could be displayed at the Guggenheim Museum!

From YouTube’s blogsite: “Do you ever look at a YouTube video and think, ‘That’s a work of art?’ Yep, so do we – and now, so does the Guggenheim … animation, motion graphics, narrative, nonnarrative or documentary work, music videos and entirely new art forms – creations that really challenge the world’s perceptions of what’s possible with video. We want to elevate the debate.”

YouTube Play: A Biennial of Creative Video. This global online initiative is presented in collaboration with HP. Check it out!

Looking through the lens of history

1940 – Luftwaffe launches Battle of Britain

1958 – Coup in Iraq sparks jitters in Middle East

1990 – Yeltsin resignation splits Soviet communists

1995 – Serbs force Muslims out of Srebrenica

Now playing at the Princess: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

We temporarily depart from the usual movie-trivia format this week to recognize what is arguably America’s most popular and beloved movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Based on Harper Lee’s novel by the same name, one wonders if it is divine “coincidence” that the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South who defended a black man against an undeserved rape charge and his kids against prejudice, should emerge on the same week headlines blare about the racial violence of New Black Panthers?

Millions of Americans have read Lee’s novel set in the 1930s, and watched the 1962 film version, which starred Gregory Peck. Read more about the story in Mary McDonagh Murphy’s book, “Scout, Atticus, and Boo,” where you’ll also find interesting features, including a video of contemporary authors offering their views of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning classic.

Last week’s movie-trivia winners: Matthew Huguet of Green Bay, Wis., and Brian C. Saunders of Brooklyn, N.Y., who correctly identified the character “Andy,” voiced by John Morris in “Toy Story 3.”

Saunders said, “I took my son to see it as a graduation present (from elementary school). My take: It’s a very good movie that does nothing to cheapen the legacy of the first two ‘Toy Story’ films – nor indeed the Pixar legacy – but it’s not up to the standard raised by ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘Up.’ My son also loved it.”

Read WND’s Drew Zahn review of “Toy Story 3”.

Next week’s quote for all you movie-trivia buffs:

“There’s something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you. Mine took me here, where I belong.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!

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